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Classic Yellow Cake

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This simple Yellow Cake is made completely from scratch! A classic birthday party cake that’s moist, fluffy, and topped with a fudgy homemade chocolate frosting.

Two slices of yellow birthday cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles

My Favorite Yellow Cake Recipe

At last! Time for a new cake recipe!! This one – you guys – this is the perfect yellow cake with a fudgy chocolate frosting. It’s made completely from scratch, but with flavor and texture that resembles what you’d get with a box of cake mix – but better.

I know that’s a big claim. There’s so much nostalgia with boxed cake mixes. I mean, how many birthdays parties did you go to when you were a kid that had a yellow cake? For this recipe, I wanted to capture that fluffy, moist cake texture and also recreate the flavor. I think I did it!

Why Do I Love This Cake So Much?

  • Easy to make. There’s no creaming butter and sugar together or waiting for ingredients to come to room temperature.
  • Quick. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare the batter, which means you’ll be diving into that first slice even sooner than you thought. 
  • Flexible. I’ve made it as a sheet cake in these photos for an easy, classic birthday cake. But you can also use this recipe to make cupcakes or a layer cake!
  • Recreates that nostalgic childhood birthday cake. I tested 7 different versions of this recipe before finalizing this one, which was also tested so many times! I love this recipe. If you want to make a classic yellow birthday cake from scratch, this is what you are looking for.

What’s the Difference Between Vanilla Cake and Yellow Cake?

Flavor-wise, a yellow cake should have a less-strong vanilla flavor. Instead, yellow cake has a buttery, slightly “eggy” flavor, although I hate the term “eggy” myself. Other than that, there isn’t really a whole lot of difference between the two!

Two slices of yellow cake with chocolate frosting, a bite taken out of one slice.

Key Ingredients for Yellow Cake

One of the best things about this classic cake recipe is how simple the ingredients are.

  • Vegetable oil & Melted Butter – Using this combination gives you both a fluffy and spongy texture from the oil but with the flavor from the butter.
  • Eggs and egg yolks – The added fat from the extra egg yolks provides a perfect crumb to the cake and also give it that classic yellow color without using artificial food dyes.
  • Sour Cream – Keeps this cake nice and moist. I recommend substituting with non-fat Greek yogurt. 
  • Buttermilk – Adds a slight tang to the cake and contributes to the tenderness of the crumb. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can make this easy substitute with lemon juice or white vinegar.

How to Make a Yellow Cake from Scratch

Making this cake only requires four steps! If you have kids who enjoy baking, this easy yellow cake recipe is a great one for them to try.

  1. Prep: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine wet ingredients and sugar: In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, with all the dry ingredients except the buttermilk and sour cream. Beat on medium speed until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  3. Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the buttermilk: Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add half the dry ingredients and half the buttermilk and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate. Add remaining dry ingredients and buttermilk and beat until all of the ingredients are well combined. Use a spatula to stir the batter from the bottom to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
  4. Bake: Pour the batter in a 9-inch by 13-inch pan and bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely prior to frosting. 
An overhead shot of a vanilla cake bake in a 9x13 inch pan

What Chocolate Frosting to Use

I love this chocolate fudge frosting on yellow cake. It uses a combination of melted chocolate and cocoa powder for a rich chocolate flavor. This frosting is so fudgy, a little goes a long way here. 

If chocolate buttercream frosting isn’t your preferred combo, I have many other frosting recipes that go perfectly with yellow cake! Some suggestions:

And of course, definitely finish your cake with some sprinkles for that classic celebration cake look!

Piping tip with a swirl of chocolate frosting, and chocolate frosting in a jar.

How to Store a Frosted Cake

Whenever possible, cakes should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. If you live in a hot and humid environment, you may want to store this in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

Close up of one slice of yellow cake topped with chocolate frosting and sprinkles

Baking Options

Can I make this recipe into cupcakes?

Absolutely! This yellow cake recipe is super flexible. If you make the recipe as is, it should produce 24 cupcakes. To make 12 cupcakes, halve the ingredients. Here’s is my yellow cupcake recipe.

Can I make this recipe into a layer cake? 

Yes, this will be a 3-layer 8-inch cake, and you can find the step-by-step instructions on that post.

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Close up of one slice of yellow cake topped with chocolate frosting and sprinkles

The Best Yellow Cake Recipe

  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 15 slices

Description

This Yellow Cake Recipe from scratch is a better-than-cake-mix yellow cake. This recipe can be used to make a yellow cake or yellow cupcakes with a chocolate fudge frosting.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups (285g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (118ml) sour cream
  • 2 ½ cups (350g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (7.5g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) salt
  • 1 1/3 cup (315ml) buttermilk or milk

For the frosting and topping

  • 6 ounces dark chocolate, melted
  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, cold
  • 3 cups (390g) powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup (28g) cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) heavy whipping cream (or milk)
  • Sprinkles of choice

Instructions

For the cake: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, butter, eggs. egg yolks and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed until the eggs and oil are well incorporated and the batter is lighter in color, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients. Alternate adding half the dry ingredients and half the buttermilk at a time and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate. Then add remaining dry ingredients and buttermilk and beat until well combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir the batter from the bottom to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
  3. Pour the batter in a 9-inch by 13-inch pan and bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes. Test the cake for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

For the frosting:

  1. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave at 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring each time until the chocolate is melted. Stir until completely smooth. Set aside too cool.
  2. Cut the butter into pieces. Using the paddle attachment, whip butter for 5-7 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Beat until butter look light in color. Next, beat the cocoa powder into the butter until well mixed.
  3. Alternate adding 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time with the liquid ingredients: vanilla extract & heavy cream. Ensure the powdered sugar is well combined, and whip for 1-2 minutes before adding more powdered sugar.
  4. Next, pour in the melted chocolate and beat on slow speed until incorporated. Then, increase the speed to medium-high and beat for another 2-3 minutes to whip additional air into the frosting. Spread over cooled cake. Top with sprinkles.

Notes

  • Sour cream substitute: use a plain or Greek yogurt
  • Buttermilk substitute: You can use milk or make a homemade buttermilk substitute
  • Storage suggestions: Whenever possible, cakes should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. If you live in a hot and humid environment, you may want to store this in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.
  • Make-ahead: These are best served within 2 days of preparation but will proper storage they can stay fresh for several days.
Nutrition Information:
1 slice
562
49g
299mg
30g
19g
69g
2g
6g
140mg
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: birthday cake, vanilla cake, simple cake, school cake

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating

86 Responses
  1. Rose

    I made this cake in two nine inch pans. Next time I’ll use two eight inch pans. This cake does not rise enough to make a nine cake look high. Have not tasted it yet. Just out of the oven.

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Thanks for sharing. For 2 9 inch pans, you layers should be about 1 inch high, and rise in the middle.

  2. Kathleen Hillman

    Thanks so much for taking time to develop this recipe! It’s delicious and just the kind of yellow cake I was looking for. 🙂

  3. Sharon Clements

    I made this cake for my birthday. It was amazing! One of the best cakes I’ve ever eaten! Thank you for this recipe!!!!!

  4. Lauren

    This recipe is amazing! Finally a yellow cake recipe that I love. The first time I made it I felt like it was a little dense as some other comments have said, but the second time around I cut the flour back to closer to 2- 2 and 1/4 cup of flour and it was perfect! It may help others to just cut back on the flour a little to get a slightly more “airy” cake. I also beat it at the end until I saw some air bubbles and made sure not to “tap” the pan. Thank you- I’ve been looking for years for a yellow cake that didn’t taste dry and this recipe is amazing!

  5. Kate

    Wth? No butter? I prefer my cakes a bit dense. I’m looking g for a good moist yellow cake recipe to make a pineapple upside down cake…

  6. Pamela Long

    I made this cake last night and baked into cupcakes. I loved the flavor of the cake. it was very good… however it was definitely dryer than expected. I think I will try your other yellow cake recipe.

  7. Katrena Fink

    This cake is so delicious! Very moist and I love that slight tang. It didn’t have that “light as air” box mix texture that I was hoping for but, reading through this again, I see that was addressed here. Losing that is a small price to pay for dropping those chemicals, and the flavor is far superior. My daughter, who doesn’t even like cake, says that she needs this one for her next birthday! Thank you! My only substitution was using full fat sour cream, because that is what I already had on hand. Lucky me that I happened to have buttermilk in my fridge because that definitely put this over the top!

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Katrena, thank you so much for your comment! I in fact found the same challenge when I was developing the recipe. The light and fluffy cake mix texture is so drastically different from homemade cake.

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